Tag Archives: nature

september

Where was I? Oh yeah, m-a-n-i-c! I keep saying that in casual conversation, and it takes people aback. I can’t imagine how secretive it must feel to have actual mental illness or depression. People know how to react to physical ailments, but mental ones are a whole other story.

Maybe I shouldn’t use the word manic, but how else should I describe this crazy/hyper increase in creativity and energy. It’s wonderful! I’m accomplishing all of the things. I have energy. Yes, staying focused is a little challenging, but I’ve been newly decisive in ways that I haven’t been able to muster in, dare I say?, years. That means buying all of things and making all of the plans.

Throughout the summer, I considered buying my first home. It’s hard to know what to do, but now, I’m so glad I don’t have the responsibility of a home and am not chained to a mortgage. Instead, I’m going to enjoy this year by spend my money traveling, buying a new car, and skiing.

I’m also trying to squeeze every drop of summer out of September. I spent last weekend in a hospital doing doula work. Hopefully I’ll have a few good weekends of summer left. I still want to be in the water, but the leaves are turning on the mountain, and soon I’ll need to shift to winter.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

My introduction to Barbara Kingsolver happened over a decade ago when I first read her debut novel, The Bean Trees. At the time, I loved the book. I had just discovered popular, contemporary women writers, and I could not get enough. I can’t remember exactly what went down in The Bean Trees, but it had to do with a woman living life on her own terms, a theme that makes me weak in the knees. There was probably also some troubling imperialist nostalgia stuff going on there too, but, like I said, it’s been over a decade. Who can remember?

I hadn’t read Kingsolver for many years, when I picked up her latest book, Flight Behavior. The book takes place in Appalachia and centers on Dellarobia, an uneducated, but curious and sympathetic character, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage, which is really just an unhappy life. That life is changed forever when the family land is inundated with monarch butterflies, whose migratory patterns are disrupted by climate change. The butterflies are the catalyst for opening up a world of possibilities and [spoiler alert!] ultimately leading Dellarobia to self fulfillment and transformation. The message is education and information are key.

image from NPR

The book has everything I love: a down on her luck Appalachian woman, monarch butterflies, and sheep! It’s everything I look for in a novel, and yet the book sometimes fell flat. Kingsolver is writing from a rural poor Appalachian perspective, but in many ways Kingsolver herself seems to lack that perspective. I think of myself as someone who understands both sheep farming and the rural poor (though, to be fair, not the Appalachian variety), two things that are dealt with extensively in the novel. The book demonstrates that Kingsolver is a scientist at heart and a keen observer of humans and nature, but seems one step removed.

In regards to the sheep details, I recognized most of the information from a sheep raising manual written by Carol Ekarius, who herself is a transplant to sheep farming and a hobby farmer. In Flight Behavior, these characters are trying to make a living off of sheep, and to do so, they would need a completely different approach than the hobby farming Kingsolver portrays.

Next, it has been my experience that the rural poor have a certain pride, but the Dellarobia character has none of that pride. She is just completely insecure and humiliated by her life in every way. This is made clear as visitors and highly educated scientists begin to visit the butterflies. Even the transformed Dellarobia seemed to lack some necessary perspective in regards to her own behavior. I guess that’s reality though, isn’t it?

The pros of the book are that Kingsolver is a scientist, and her nerdy descriptions of the labs, the butterflies, and the processes are endearing. This kind of novel has the difficult task of balancing an engaging narrative and characters, while simultaneously commenting on environmental politics, and that’s not an easy job. In the end, I think Kingsolver achieved that balance. I read the thing to the end, and got something out of it. There are lovely uses of language and description throughout, and her metaphors are apt. It wasn’t a story that allowed me to suspend disbelief and fully engage because of the moments where I was thinking, “She would never do/say that thing.” Or, “a sheep farmer would never do xyz.”

When I hear “Appalachian women’s literature,” my heart melts a little bit. If you’re like me, Flight Behavior is worth reading. If environmentalist gets your blood pumping, you’ll probably love the book. If you find that this book isn’t for you, do go back and read her first book, though. That one was a real gem.

patio gardening

There’s something you must know about me: I love to garden. My parents always kept a very large garden and enjoyed it throughout the summer and put up food for the winter. Sometimes, they kept two large gardens. And, there were always additional raspberry, garlic, and herb gardens too. That’s not even to mention the multiple orchards that my dad tends. So, yeah, I like to garden. It’s in my blood.

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patio gardening with topsy turvies

When I was a little girl, I stole a bean and grew it in a cup in my windowsill. That bean grew until it ran out of space. Maybe it was transferred to the garden. Maybe it was tossed. Maybe I let it die. I don’t remember what happened to it. But, ever since I moved out of my parents’ home, I’ve kept houseplants–though I don’t love houseplants as much as I love gardening. Like my mother, I like expressive plants that change with the seasons, produce, die, or live, but change.

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patio gardening: wave petunias

I’ve also taken every opportunity I’ve had to grow something on a patio. When I was an undergrad, I  grew daisies in a small plot of soil by my apartment patio. Those daisies were amazing! I wish I could remember the variety. They really thrived. A year after I moved out, I went back and saw that they were still there, but unattended, unwatered, and smaller. They are probably long gone now, years later.

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patio gardening: strawberry

I still wish I had more space for gardening, but I’m making use of what I have: a patio, a shaded back patio, and some shaded, rock hard soil that’s mostly clay. Despite these setbacks, I’ve actually been able to grow quite a few plants this summer, and they seem to be flourishing. An enormous tree was recently removed from my back patio, so the space that was once completely shaded is now only partially shaded. That means I can grow a few things, but since the tree was only removed a few weeks ago, it’s really too late to grow anything too substantial. I’ve got a few sunflowers going back there, and that’s only because I already had the seed.

 

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patio gardening: cherry tomatoes

Maybe next year I’ll be able to do more with the space. But, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll even be here next year. I’m a home body who would love nothing more than to have a space to live long-term, a space that included lots of room for gardening, but that’s not my situation. I’ve never imagined myself as someone who lived in the city permanently, and yet right now, that doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

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planter box zucchini

daffodils and equinox

When I left for Vegas, the earliest signs of spring were appearing and daylight savings time had just begun. Then Vegas happened and I was entirely separated from nature for five days. (Vegas was fun up until day three, which is when I reached my saturation point.)

Right before I left for Vegas, the snow melted and out of nowhere, new grown from some sort of bulb started to appear! They symbolized something real and historic amid the weird new lawn. I snapped a few pictures.

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Isn’t the grass so sad?

A new lawn was recently established at my rental. This was before I moved in. It’s nice to have a new lawn, but it somehow feels like a fake, GMO lawn, you know? Also, I would love to plant a few tomatoes along the side of the house, but I can’t mess up the “new” lawn. Oh yeah, and the guy who is paid to maintain the lawn rarely does so. That means the new lawn is usually super dense and really tall and not very pleasant in general. I didn’t realize how much I’d been worrying about the lawn…

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But these are real beauties!

Anyway, when I returned from Vegas, these little darling little flowers were here to greet me!

Today is overcast and raining just enough to smell like iron and dirt. It feels very much like spring. And so it is.